Thursday, March 31, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Twenty: Who’s the Leader?

History is full of stories of men and women who have stabbed, poisoned, married, or lied their way to the throne. Many were willing to deceive and kill their own family members in order to reign. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who ran from the throne legitimately theirs. Fear, political disdain, and selfish interests kept them from stepping up to take the scepter.

King Saul began as one of the latter, but ended his reign on the far end of the former camp. Until Saul was anointed king, Israel had not had a human ruler. God ruled His people through prophets and judges. But in Samuel’s old age, the people began to beg for a king so they could be “like all the other nations.” They badgered Samuel until God relented, but not without a warning of how their kings would take advantage of them. They wanted one anyway. So Saul was chosen.

Even though he was tall and handsome, Saul lacked self-confidence in the beginning. Even after Samuel anointed him and Saul received the gift of prophecy, he was still afraid to take the helm. At the inauguration ceremony, everyone stood around waiting to applaud their new king, but Saul had disappeared. 

“So they inquired further of the LORD, ‘Has the man come here yet?’
"And the LORD said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies’” (1 Samuel 10:22).

What a crazy turn of events! While men from other nations would murder for a chance to be king, God’s chosen king is hiding in a pile of luggage! I can’t say I blame him. I think that’s where I’d be. Who would want the responsibility of being the first ruler of God’s people after all His stern warnings?

What happened later, though, is far worse; Saul started to believe he was the glory of Israel. After a great start, leading the Israelites to victory in battle things began to unravel. Samuel didn’t show up to pray for his men when he was supposed to, and they started to melt away in fear. In a panic, Saul decided to serve, not only as king, but as priest, and began to offer sacrifices – a strictly forbidden action.

He went from being small in his own eyes, to a cocky king who let feelings dictate his actions. He became so proud, that he later set up a monument to himself for people to admire. His pride cost him the kingship. God wanted a man after His own heart on the throne. Saul failed, but his successor, David, earned that title from God’s lips.

It’s hard to stay in balance. We’re called to be humble, but God can’t use us if we’re so insecure about our qualifications or experience that we hide from positions of leadership. We’re called to be confident in ministry. However, God can’t use us if we operate on feelings rather than truth, go our own way, or rationalize to cover our disobedience. The only way we can be of use to God is to accept the assignment He gives us and let Him do it through us.

Saul’s story convicts me because I’ve fallen into the same traps he did, and more. Sometimes I don’t want the assignments He puts before me, and other times I take things into my own hands without consulting Him. Whatever’s hidden in the lint-filled pockets of our heart will eventually be revealed. Thankfully, when we blow it, God will forgive us when we ask, and give us a new assignment for His kingdom. When we’re determined to let Him rule He can do great things through us.  He is the One and only King.

Lint Removed: Hiding From or Taking Over God’s Assignment
Cleaning Process: Let God Rule the Throne

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Nineteen: While You Were Sleeping

A lot can happen while you’re sleeping. In the movie by that name, Sandra Bullock falls in love with her previous heartthrob’s brother while he is asleep in a coma. Even though he previously had no clue of her affection for him, his family convinces him they should marry. But by the time he sees what a terrific girl she is, it’s too late.

A couple years ago something happened to us while we were sleeping. Someone came and stole thousands of dollars worth of tools out of our work trailer. When the crew showed up, they discovered the broken lock and alerted Kelly. There was a lot of angry stomping around the house that morning! For the next week every time one of them went to grab a tool and found it missing, they boiled all over again.

What would happen, however, if someone stole your most precious possession and you didn’t notice it was missing? What if you woke up and your husband, wife, or kids had been kidnapped, yet you went about your business oblivious of the fact that they were gone? People might question just how much they meant to you in the first place. That’s what happened to Samson:

“With such nagging [Delilah] prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it. So he told her everything. ‘No razor has ever been used on my head,’ he said, ‘because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.’
"When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, ‘Come back once more; he has told me everything.’ So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.
"Then she called, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’
"He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.
"Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison” (Judges 16:16-21, author’s emphasis).
While Samson was sleeping, his enemies stole the most precious thing he possessed – the empowering presence of God. He didn’t lose it in that one little nap, though; he’d been giving it away for some time. Samson gloried in his gift of superhuman strength. His long hair symbolized that he had been dedicated to God since birth, but his life did not demonstrate the same dedication. He valued God’s blessing so little that he gave away his secret to a Philistine prostitute. When God left him completely, he didn’t even miss Him.

This can happen to us as well. Several times throughout the Bible we’re told to “wake up.”  Wake up and get to work while we still can (Romans 13:11). Wake up and let Christ shine His light in our lives (Ephesians 5:14). Wake up and revive our dying faith, because Jesus will come like a thief in the night (Revelation 3:2-4).

How can we stay awake? One extremely important step is to set up an alarm system. After our robbery we installed an alarm system. That way if someone comes to steal again, we’ll be alerted to the danger. Making ourselves accountable to godly friends is a great way to keep from falling asleep spiritually. When the enemy tries to sneak up on us, they can sound the alert. Delilah didn’t do this for Samson because she was the enemy! Samson was foolish enough to take naps at her house. She wore him down with nagging then lulled him to sleep while his enemies hid nearby to pounce on him.

Like Samson, we may think what we do in private is hidden, but the truth always comes out in the end. Better to share our struggles with a faithful friend who will alert us to danger, not a worldly influence that will lull us into spiritual slumber. It’s a rude awakening to suddenly realize we’ve pushed God away bit by bit and we’re in enemy hands. The happy ending to Samson’s story is that he cried out and God strengthened him one more time before his death. How much good could he have done in his life, however, if he hadn’t fallen asleep in the first place?

Lint Removed: Sleeping on the Job
Cleaning Process: Protect Your Source of Strength

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Eighteen: Seize the Cheese

 Part Three: Pocket Lint (What is Hidden)
Welcome to Part Three of the “40 Days of Lint” series. In this section we’ll probe the areas of our lives that, to most, remain hidden. Like pocket lint, no one knows it’s there except us - and the One who knows our every thought and intent, even before we do. We don’t have to fear His knowledge of us, since Jesus went to such great lengths to release us from the power of hidden sin. I pray His continued blessings and freedom on your life as we seek God’s complete cleansing on our way to Easter.

Day Eighteen: Seize the Cheese
What do you call cheese that isn’t yours? Nacho Cheese. And why would we want someone else’s cheese? It’s called envy and it’s been around since before the Garden. It began with Lucifer. It wasn’t enough to be part of the host of heaven, he wanted God’s cheese - He wanted to be God (Isa. 14:12-15). So he rebelled and took a third of the angels with him. His constant occupation ever since has been to take and destroy what does not rightly belong to him – God’s glory and the worship of men.

His first success was in the garden when he convinced Adam and Eve to take what was not theirs. He suggested God was withholding something they needed; they realized too late that stolen fruit is not sweeter. Ever since, we have struggled with envy; yearning for cheese that is not ours.

The progression is always the same. Something catches our eye, and we stop to admire it. Next, comes the longing. We want it; we want it badly. Whether it’s a sports car, a person, a sweater, or a candy bar, our life suddenly seems empty without it. Unless we’re willing to walk away from temptation, we will eventually find a way to get that cheese and make it our own. Achan admitted that’s what took him down:

“It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath” (Joshua 7:20-21).

It was the privilege of the victor in those times, to plunder the enemy’s camp. But in this case, God had instructed His people to leave the spoils as an offering to Him. It was a test. When Achan stole what was forbidden, he not only took what belonged to God, but caused trouble for his people. Because of his sin, many lives were lost.

It’s the same with us; when we steal from God, we bring harm to others as well. Often, what we hide is less tangible than robes and coins. We forget our lives are not our own, and act as if we can do as we please with the treasure at our fingertips. Time, money, energy, attention, worship, and love are just a few examples of the cheese we seize for ourselves, to use for our own glory.

These forty days before Easter gives us time for self-examination. It’s an opportunity to empty our pockets before the Lord. He already knows what's hidden there; this is purely for our benefit. Once we admit our sin to Him, He can release us from its bondage. There’s enormous freedom in honesty and confession, but none in stolen goods. We can’t enjoy what’s not ours.

We serve a generous God who loves to bless us in every way. If we don’t have all the ‘cheese’ we want it might be a test to see if we truly love Him. Or, He knows it wouldn’t be good for us right now. (Too much cheese can cause constipation.)

Our society doesn’t make it easy for us to resist temptation. Advertisers work hard to feed our natural greed. It takes daily effort to hold our hands open before God  - to give and receive from Him, and to be grateful for all His blessings.  

Lint Removed: Stealing
Cleaning Process: Give God What is His

Monday, March 28, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Seventeen: River of Life

A few years ago I toured Italy for nine days with my husband. Sadly, I almost didn’t go because I was horribly sick with a respiratory infection. My daughters had come down with it first, and days before my departure, I succumbed. My parents nervously left me at the airport, tanked with antibiotics and cough medicine. Drugged out of my head, I don’t know how I made it from one connection to the next.

But I arrived safely, and my husband met me with excitement and a sack of Swiss truffles. He was ready to see the sights together. I revived somewhat for our evening in Venice, and after a good night’s sleep I began to feel somewhat human - then I brushed my teeth. Without even thinking I followed brushing by gulping down a full glass of tap water. Thirty minutes later I alternated between groaning on the bed and running to the bathroom. For the rest of the trip, no matter what I did, I was plagued by nausea, fatigue, and a wheezing cough. If only I’d steered clear of the water!

There’s one foreign country where we won’t have to worry about that:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).

Smack dab in the middle of heaven is the River of Life - clear, invigorating, and healing. When we get there, we’ll have so much to explore, so many things to do. I can imagine walking along the banks of this river, munching on the fruit-of-the-month. I like the sound of a warm climate and year round harvest, with fruit so satisfying we can’t even imagine. Even the leaves are healthful! There will be no more bugs, disease, or unsafe drinking water.

Even though we haven’t “crossed the pond” yet, we can get a taste of that River now. Jesus told the woman who came to the well, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Our living water is Jesus.

There’s no other source that will satisfy our thirst like He does. How do we ‘drink’ Jesus? The best source is the Bible; we can fill up daily and drink freely. Jesus also satisfies our thirst through His people when we encourage each other’s faith. Finally, we can drink from the spring within our own heart as we listen to the Holy Spirit and walk in Him. The power of this water is enough to make our journey to heaven enjoyable and overflow to quench the thirst of other thirsty souls.
Lint Removed: Drinking from the Wrong Source
Cleaning Process: Drink from the River of Life

Saturday, March 26, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Sixteen: Jesus in the Middle

Grief comes in waves. When someone we love dies, we lose our job, our spouse rejects us, or we suffer tragedy, pain is all-encompassing. It’s normal to ricochet back and forth in the five stages of grief: denial, blame, guilt, anger, and acceptance. I experienced them all after my divorce. The pain was worse than death, because it didn’t end. In my anguish I cried out repeatedly, “Why, why doesn’t my husband love me anymore?” I knew God wasn’t to blame. Even in my sorrow, I knew God grieved with me.

Yet, there have been other times when I have blamed God for pain and suffering. Even hanging from a cross of my own making, I have yelled at God for not saving me from the pain. Whenever grief or hardships appear, whatever the cause, the choices are the same. We can either look to Christ for help and comfort, or rail at Him in anger.

On the cross, Jesus hung between two thieves who faced that same decision.
“They crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle” (John 19:18).

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’

"But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence. We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

"Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

"Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’ ” (Luke 23:39-43).

Jesus came in the flesh to experience our pain and show us God’s heart for mankind. He didn’t answer the thief who hurled insults at Him, while demanding relief from his pain. He knew this man had no faith. Instead, He turned to the one who admitted his own sinfulness, and sought a relationship with God.

Next to Jesus’ perfection, we’re all sinners in need of His forgiveness. When we suffer – because of our own sins, someone else’s choices, or because we live in a fallen world – the answer is always to look to the cross in the middle. He came to be with us in our pain, our grief, and in every tragedy that strikes. When we do, like the thief who turned to Jesus, He assures us we will be with Him, both now and for eternity.  I pray that today, whatever pain you bear, you will freely give it to Jesus and let Him love you.

Lint Removed: Blame for Circumstances
Cleaning Process: Look to Jesus in Times of Pain

Friday, March 25, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Fifteen: In the Courtyard of Denial

She used to boast how impressed everyone was that she could go to parties and not drink or do drugs. “I’m showing them I can have fun without doing what they do,” she said. “I can be a witness by hanging out with people like Jesus did.”

I tried to point out that when Jesus showed up at a party everything changed. People were drawn to Him and hungered to hear His stories about God’s love. They realized they were sinners and wanted to know how they could be forgiven. Jesus didn’t blend in; He stood out. That’s where we so often make our mistake – we want to fit in.

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and loved Him dearly. Yet on the very same day he vowed he would die for Christ, Peter ended up denying he even knew Him.

“…seizing [Jesus], they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’

"But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said…

"The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:54-57, 61-62).

Concerned for his Master’s welfare, Peter followed at a distance. However, out of self-preservation, he tried to blend in. Pretty soon the night chill forced him closer to the fire. Soon, he warmed himself by the fire in the middle of the courtyard with the others. Exactly what happens to us in our desire for acceptance.

My young friend who boasted about her witness at parties is now an alcoholic, floundering in the misery of an addiction she brought on herself. The passionate faith she once claimed has cooled to being “religious.” Her lifestyle denies the One she vowed to love and cherish. She avoids Jesus’ loving look, who longs for her to repent and enjoy intimacy with Him once again. I pray daily that she will return to her Lord and Savior as Peter did.

What about you? Have you been following Jesus at a distance, fearing what might happen if you get too close? Do you find yourself sitting mutely at the fire while others mock Jesus and His message? If so, it’s time to run. Seek His forgiveness. He’s looking at you now to draw you back. He will welcome you with love and make you new by His Spirit.

That’s what happened to Peter. He went from denying he even knew Jesus, to preaching a powerful sermon where 3,000 people got saved (See Acts 2)! What made the difference? At the fire, Peter was trying to follow Jesus in his own strength, and fear took him down. But after the resurrection he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit that enabled him to be bold about his faith. We can be His witnesses, but not with our own strength.
Lint Removed: Warming by the Enemy Fire
Cleaning Process: Be Filled With the Spirit

Thursday, March 24, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Fourteen: True Friends, True Healing

We hadn’t been home long from our swim at the Y when my daughter started to put her towel back in the cupboard. “Oh wow, did you wash it already?” I asked.

 “No, it’s okay though, I dried it.”

 “Um, I don’t think so,” I said, grabbing it from her. “Just because it’s dry doesn’t mean it’s clean. Now it has dry chlorine, dirt, and dead skin on it.”

 She wrinkled her nose, “Ew, that’s gross!”

 “Sorry, but I only want clean towels in the cupboard,” I said, tossing it in the hamper.

Jesus got a worse reaction from the leaders of His day when He pointed out the need for true cleansing:

 “Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

"When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’

"The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’

 "Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’

"Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God” (Luke 5:18-25).

 There must have been quite a stir when they cut a hole in the roof and lowered their friend from the ceiling like a spider on an unseen thread. The Pharisees and teachers hated Jesus’ response. They wanted to see a show, but Jesus was more concerned about the deepest need of the paralytic. I think it’s fascinating that when Jesus saw the faith of this man’s friends, He forgave the man. They had faith that He could heal their friend physically as well as spiritually.

 The Pharisees and teachers fumed at Jesus’ audacity. How could a mere man claim to speak for God? Jesus read their minds, another miracle, and answered them in front of the crowd by asking them, “What’s harder, to forgive sin or heal a man physically?”

Seems like a toss up to me. Only God can do either one. Of course healing is more of a show stopper. You can’t see the effects of a clean heart right away. We’re more drawn to the spectacular. So, to prove He can do both, Jesus healed his body as well. He fixed the source as well as the symptoms of his paralyzed state.

 The man picked up his mat and left praising God. I wonder which miracle meant the most to him – that his heart was clean, or that the consequences of his sin were revoked. In the years to come, when he was tempted to go back to his old way of life, did his friends remind him of this life-changing encounter with Jesus?

God has blessed me with friends who carry me to Jesus when I’m too paralyzed to get there myself. Sometimes I think I need relief from the consequences of my sin, when what I really need is a clean heart. They place me before Jesus in prayer and let Him do the work. As a true friend, I want to do the same for them. Repentance may not look fancy from the outside, but that’s where healing begins, front and center with Jesus.
Lint Removed: Paralyzing Sin
Cleaning Process: The Healing of Forgiveness

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Thirteen: Mistaken Identity

Last summer I rescued a terrified bird entangled in the net covering our strawberry plants. Even though I didn’t want him eating our berries, I hated to see him trapped. From the look of terror on his face and his wildly racing heart, he must have thought I was going to devour him on the spot. He didn’t recognize me as the one who filled the bird feeders only a few feet away. He didn’t know Kelly and I delight in their antics as they gobble up the seed.

The disciples made a similar mistake when they saw Jesus walking by their boat across the lake. I admit it must have been disturbing. It had been quite a day. Jesus had fed 5,000 men, plus women and children from nothing but five loaves and two fish. Afterward, He stayed behind to say goodbye to the people and spend some much needed time in prayer. Jesus sent the disciples ahead saying, “I’ll meet you in Bethsaida.”

They were tired, it was night; they were in the middle of the lake rowing against the wind. Who wouldn’t freak out to see somebody walking past the boat on the water? But the disciples were wrong about who it was.

“… they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:47-52, see also Matthew 14).

First of all, the disciples were afraid because they thought Jesus was a ghost. He was doing something they’d never seen a person do. They assumed He was there to harm them, just like the bird in my yard. Sometimes I make the same mistake when Jesus comes to my rescue in a way I don’t expect. Especially when I’m in the middle of a crisis.When He appears unexpectedly I panic.

Secondly, they were amazed because their hearts were hard. They had just witnessed a miraculous food-fest. Jesus had empowered the disciples to drive out demons, heal people, and preach the Good News! And yet when the Lord over demons, sickness, sin, and hunger walked on the water to calm their storm, they were shocked.

I can’t fault them. Even though I’ve seen God drive the enemy out, heal people, bring joyful repentance, and feed the hungry, I’m still amazed when He shows up in an unexpected way. I still lack understanding, and my heart is still hardened.

This year, as Easter draws near, I want to be expectant and aware of the many ways Jesus comes to my rescue – whether in a child’s antics, a sermon, a song, a verse, or on the ocean waves. How wonderful that instead of lecturing His disciples for their fear, Jesus’ first words to them were, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” His words to us are still the same. Praise God for His patient love!
Lint Removed: A Hard Heart
Cleaning Process: Recognizing Jesus as Lord of All

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Twelve: Outstanding in Your Field

The card read, “Happy Birthday to a guy who’s out standing in his field!” On the front was a farmer in the middle of a field of wheat. We told my uncle it was really alfalfa, since that’s what he grew on his land and he laughed at the pun. However, it’s not just a fun play on words. In order to get ahead in agriculture, or anything else, you have to spend time in your field.

Shammah was one of King David’s mighty men who excelled at what he did, because he continued to work diligently, even when the odds were against him. When Samuel listed the thirty-seven faithful warriors who served David, he began with the exploits of the “Three.” Shammah was one of the elite of these elite men in David’s army:

lentils come in a surprising variety of colors!
“When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the LORD brought about a great victory” (2 Samuel 23:11-12).

Maybe you’re thinking, “So what? A guy stood his ground in the middle of a field of beans and defeated the enemy. How does that affect me?”

Lentils may not tantalize your palate, but they were essential food to the Israelites - they were filling, cheap, and nourishing. So often those are the things for which we fail to take a stand - the basics. The everyday stuff seems too boring to bother with. Guard a rare treasure? Yes! A secret passageway to a hidden world? Sure thing! But Shammah was willing to risk his life in the defense of lentils.

What is it that’s most basic in our lives – those that sustain, yet seem ordinary? The Bible. Family. Marriage, as God defines it. Purity. If we’re ever going to keep what God has given to us, we must value it first. Only then can we stand to defend it when the enemy attacks.

The second thing I see in these verses is that everyone else ran away. Yet Shammah still won the battle. Was he inspired by his great passion for lentils? Did he succeed because he stood in the middle of the field where no one could sneak up on him? Or was he a rebel soldier who worked best alone? None of the above. Shammah won because he fought for God.

So there’s still hope for us. We might be listed in the heavenly records as an outstanding warrior in our field. Shammah’s friends ran away. There will be times when our friends and family will not stay to fight the enemy, even when we’re fighting to rescue them! How many of us agonize daily in prayer for others who do not value their minds, bodies, and eternal destiny as much as we do. But with God’s angel army surrounding us, we have the advantage. God is working and those who live for Him are on the winning side. Don’t let the enemy chase you off your land; stay and fight!

Lint Removed: Enemy Forces
Cleaning Process: Stand and Fight for Your Lentils

Monday, March 21, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Eleven: Pick Your Tree

Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to stay away from temptation? When I gave up dessert for Lent, I was suddenly drawn to the last Lindor truffles from Valentine’s Day. The bowl of pastel mints for Easter called to me each time I passed. And I was suddenly in the mood to bake! It took constant vigilance to resist the voices luring me into the kitchen.

 Kelly absentmindedly filled his pocket with free candy at the store the first day of Lent, until he remembered his promise. Even then, there was a little voice inside that said, “She’ll never know.” But of course he would know and so would God, so he put them back in the bowl. It would have been no sin to indulge, except that we chose to give up dessert for Lent in order to focus our minds on Christ.

Doesn’t it seem like whatever you’re trying to resist suddenly throws itself in front of you everywhere you look? But often, we cause our own demise – we flirt with temptation, tantalizing our desire until we finally give in. Where do we find the guy who ends up in the arms of the adulteress woman in Proverbs 7:8? He just happens to be strolling down the street where she lives…just before sunset. And where were Adam and Eve when Satan tempted them to eat? They were conveniently located right beside the forbidden tree.

“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’
 ‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 2:8-9, and 3:3-6).

If you read carefully, you’ll find the tree of knowledge wasn’t the only thing in the middle of the garden where Adam and Eve were hanging out. The tree of life was there too. They had a choice. Would they choose to eat only what God allowed, and believe it was satisfying and perfect? Or was the serpent telling the truth? The fruit did look tempting. Maybe God was keeping it for himself because He knew if they ate it, they could be gods too! So they believed the lies of a slick-tongued serpent over God.

We face the same choice every day, and the stakes are life or death. Six thousand years or so later, the serpent is still using the same ploy…successfully, “You’re not going to die if you disobey God; He’s keeping the good stuff for himself.” The two trees stand in the middle of our world – the tree of evil and the tree of everlasting life. Satan claims the first tree will satisfy our desire for sensual pleasure, God is holding back on us - that if we eat of it, we’ll be like God himself. The other tree promises eternal life in harmony with our loving Lord and Creator who has already given us everything we need. Only one tree fulfills its promises.

How we respond to this question is the key to everything else; that’s why it’s in the middle. We can try to ignore it, walk past it, but sooner or later we’ll end up at the trees of choice. Whatever we pick and consume will produce fruit in our lives in keeping with its origin. Whose voice will we believe; who will we follow?

Lint Removed: Disobedience
Cleaning Process: Repentance

Saturday, March 19, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Ten: The Throne

When you walk into a person’s house, you usually enter the living or family room. Whatever piece of furniture sits in the middle of that room is probably symbolic of the lord who lives there. It may be a lazy boy recliner with a remote on the arm, or an oversized chair with an ottoman. It may be a leather couch flanked by neat piles of books and magazines. The central piece of furniture in a woman’s home might be a multi-pillowed couch with luxurious blankets for snuggling.

What then, do you think we will find in the middle of heaven? Several scripture passages tell us it will be the Lord’s throne, who reigns without equal:

“…there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne…From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing…Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal…Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne… the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ ” (Revelation 4:2-6; 5:6; 7:17).

In this glimpse of heaven, Jesus reigns on the throne in the middle. He is identified as the Shepherd who will lead us to living water and dry our tears. In His glorified state, in the center of heaven, Jesus still appears as the Lamb who was slain. He’s not a potbellied couch potato with a remote in one hand and a beer in the other (or even a scepter!). Even in His glorious, heavenly radiance, Jesus bears the marks of the sacrifice He made for us.

If not for the wounds of love, John might have been terrified by this vision of Jesus. Instead, He sees his Master, his friend, his Savior. And he falls in love with Him all over again. For those of us who have never had the privilege of seeing Jesus in human form, it is comforting to know where to find Him when we get to heaven. He’ll be the One in the middle – the One so beautiful He escapes description - surrounded by rainbows, gems, and storms of praise. People and angels surround Him in adoration. Yet He reaches out nail-pierced hands to wipe the earth-tears from our eyes and welcome us home. 

For those who have accepted Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and new life in Him, we need not fear death. We need not wonder if heaven will be tedious or if we will be accepted. I’m confident that when we see what John saw, we will be overcome with the splendor of our Lord and heavenly delights beyond anything we can experience here on earth.

Lint Removed: Fear
Cleaning Process: Gratitude

Friday, March 18, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Nine: In the Middle of Camp

Part Two: Bellybutton Lint (At the Center of Things)
Everyone has a bellybutton. They’re not the most attractive part of our anatomy. They serve as a testimony of our humaneness, our need for nourishment and attachment from the womb and beyond. Our navels are also symbolic of the center of things in our lives, and the stuff that tends to accumulate there and throw us off track. Welcome to part two of the “40 Days of Lint.”

Day Nine: In the Middle of Camp
A while back a young friend of ours asked, “Why do you want to go to church when you’re on vacation?” It seemed strange to him that we would waste our morning with a bunch of strangers when we could be out having fun. I’m glad he asked; it has helped me confirm all over again why I love to go to church.

To me, it’s not about being fed, although I do enjoy lively discussions in Sunday school and powerful sermons. It’s not about the music, even though I love to worship with live accompaniment and singing with fellow believers (even those I don’t’ know). However, more than that, church is an expression of who I am – a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. The Church is my family. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in Tillamook, Mexico, or the Philippines. It’s a joy to gather in the presence of the Lord with brothers and sisters, reminding each other that God is on the throne. It puts everything in perspective.

During the week, things can get out of whack. The frustrations of everyday life can become the focus instead of God. I need to remember He is all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving, ever-faithful. When we don’t go to church regularly, we miss the opportunity to share our praises and needs, and be energized by what God is doing in the lives of others. We miss the joy of the hope of heaven.

That’s why God told Moses and Aaron to have the Israelites set up camp surrounding the tent of meeting with the portable church and the priests camped in the middle.

“ ‘The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.’ …the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps” (Numbers 2:1-2 &17).

That way, they wouldn’t get distracted by whatever “Thelma and Ernest” and their seven kids were doing in the tent in front of them. Every family faced the holy place where God came down to speak to Moses. If they paid attention, they could see when the Spirit of God descended. Pretty exciting view! They knew when the pillar of cloud or fire rose from the tent signifying it was time to move on.

That leads me to ask, “Which way is your tent facing?” Are you distracted because your focus is on others? Does the holy presence of God descend unnoticed as you gaze dejectedly into the desert? How do you know when it’s time to stay put and when to get going? What does the banner say that flies above your home? Is God in the middle of your camp?

It’s so easy to let work, sports, entertainment, or education set up camp in the middle of our lives. Those things are great, but when they push God and church attendance to the sidelines, we lose our most important family connection. We need to be accountable to each other, maintain our focus, and lean on each other in the journey.

Lint Removed: Centering on the Wrong Things
Cleaning Process: Gather Around God and His House

Thursday, March 17, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Eight: Insults

I still remember the day my college roommate hurled her dresser drawers at me. I had returned to our dorm room moments earlier, happy and energized after a game of tennis. I don’t know what I said that ticked her off, but suddenly she started yelling how cocky I was about my “athletic ability.” She emptied the contents of her drawers at me - I dodged socks, underwear, and t-shirts. Once they were emptied, she flung the drawers themselves. Thankfully they bounced off the bed and walls instead of my face. I breathed a sigh of relief when, instead of finding more ammunition, she flounced from the room.

What in the world brought that on? I wondered. I looked around at the wreckage and tried to figure out why my normally sweet roommate had attacked me with such venom. Then I got it. Earlier in the school year she had been in an accident that shattered her ankle. She had spent months in pain, the winter in a walking cast, in and out of surgery and numerous doctor’s appointments. When I bounced into the room after running around the court in the sunshine, it was the final blow. She snapped.
Jealousy is often the reason people insult and attack others. That’s what caused so much friction between Jesus and the teachers of the Law. He was stealing their audience and they decided He must be dealt with. Knowing this attitude would continue after He returned to heaven, Jesus warned His disciples. Even on His way to the cross He said:

“‘For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ ” (Luke 23:31-39).

Are you in a dry season because of cruelty or insults? Have you suffered persecution for being a follower of Jesus Christ? If Satan wanted to kill Jesus and His message at the cross, think how much he hates those of us who repeat this message of hope and salvation? He is jealous of Jesus’ supremacy, the victory He had over death and sin, and His power at work in us.

Insults hurt, so does persecution in any form. Jesus wasn't surprised or bitter about it, instead He prayed for the ones who hurt Him. Even in the agony of rejection and crucifixion, Jesus demonstrated how we can lift our pain to the Father. He was able to forgive others because He knew He would soon be home. His assignment and ultimate desire was for all to come with Him to heaven, even those who mocked and killed Him.

One of the criminals realized, just in time, that Jesus was His Savior, and repented. Jesus promised they would be together in paradise (Luke 23:42-43). Our resurrection day is coming too, and the way we respond to our persecutors can either take us down, or bring others up with us. It’s not something we can do in our own strength. Only Jesus can give us both the desire and the ability to forgive those who treat us hatefully.

Soon after her outburst, my roommate requested to move. She disappeared from the campus at the end of the term. I don’t know if she ever dealt with the bitterness she had developed toward me, but God helped me to forgive her and gain understanding. He helped me see her through His eyes, as a person in pain, needing His love. I hope to be with her in heaven someday.

Lint Removed: Bitterness
Cleaning Process: Forgiveness

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Seven: I Have Nothing to Offer

One of the worst parts of spiritually dry times is the guilt Satan heaps on us. He loves to convince us we’re useless, either because of our past sins, or the damage others have done to us. After my divorce, I felt useless, irreparably broken. Imagine my surprise when I was invited to serve on the church board and the mission council at my church that same year. Through this validation of my fellow believers, God showed me I could still serve in His kingdom.

Guilt and insecurity are nothing new in our generation. For centuries now, men and women alike have refused to believe the Good News that they can be saved, or once saved, that they are fit to minister for a number of reasons. We say:
·         I’m not worthy
·         I’m not smart enough, don’t know enough
·         I turned my back on Him; He’s given up on me
·         I’m handicapped
God’s answer is always, “If you love me, I can use you. The world needs your gifts and perspective and voice.”

“Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.’ And let no eunuch complain, ‘I am only a dry tree.’
For this is what the LORD says: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.

‘And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’” (Isaiah 56:3-7).

No one is excluded from the Lord’s invitation. A barren, unfruitful life given to Him will flourish and become productive. None of us are beyond the reach of His love and healing. He will not reject anyone who comes in repentance and humility. That goes for first-time comers, as well as repeat customers. He has a way of taking our messy lives and making something new and beautiful out of them. Instead of remaining worthless, we become showpieces of His amazing love. 

Lint Removed: Hopelessness
Cleaning Process: Accept His Invitation

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Six: Sprouting from Dry Ground

As a gardener, it always amazes me when I see weeds, even trees, growing from cracks in the sidewalk or breaking through solid rock. Why is it that what I plant on purpose has to be coaxed into existence, while these rebel plants thrive in the least likely spots? They are tenacious for life, willing to fight impossible odds, flourishing in the most inhospitable environment. They don’t care if anybody wants them there, or if anyone makes bouquets from their flowers. They laugh at our efforts to kill them. No matter how many times we pull or spray these plants, they keep coming back.

Just last weekend, my husband, stepdaughter, and I spent over an hour trying to uproot a stump growing next to our fence. It was growing in the exact spot we needed to put a new post. The old post came loose as well as several large chunks of cement. And we managed to hack the trunk into three pieces, but it still wouldn’t pry from the ground. It wasn’t until my husband attached a chain to his truck that he was able to pull the roots from the ground. Kourtnie and I watched in amazement as each piece emerged from the ground followed by a 10-12 foot root!

These renegades have two things in common – an original seed and deep roots. Somewhere back in time, a seed was dropped and it grew. It developed a strong base. Every effort to cut it down or dig it up failed, because far below the surface the root drank from hidden sources of water.

Many people view Jesus, as an ugly, unwelcome weed. Yet when they tried to destroy Him on the cross, He made a comeback. No matter how people try to erase Him from our society today - our government, our schools, our literature - He just keeps coming back. He is the original seed of God and He is rooted in eternity:

"Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn't begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn't even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they'll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they'll have right before them.”
Who believes what we've heard and seen?
Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
Isaiah 52:13-53:2, Message

Jesus grew up in a world parched for salvation, and they chopped Him down. He rose to prove His victory over sin and death. Many believed in Him then and now. However, our world continues to see Him as an intruder; they attempt to dispose of Christ and His seed everywhere. They cultivate other plants that do not have the audacity to point out their sin and need for a Savior.

Soon, so soon I can feel it in the air I breathe, Jesus will return for those who love Him. He will not appear as an ugly weed or a scraggly plant struggling to rise from the desert floor. This time He will show himself for who He really is – the Rose, The Vine, The Branch. King Jesus. This tenacious seed of God, was cut down by our sin, but He rose from the dead and will come again in victory.

Lint Removed: Viewing Christ as a Weed
Cleaning Process: Seeing Jesus as the True Vine

Monday, March 14, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Five: When the Brook Dries Up

Have you ever felt like God’s favorite child? Others around you experience broken hearts, financial difficulties, health problems, trials of faith, and job loss. Yet, you seem to be doing great. Maybe you wonder why everything’s going so well; even feel guilty about your comfort in the midst of other’s pain. Perhaps you assume God is blessing you for your faithfulness to Him. Then suddenly, the brook dries up and you move into a season of famine and questioning. That’s what happened to Elijah.

“The word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.’
"So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
"Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’ So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’
"She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:2-9, 15-16).

It would have been easy for God to keep sending raven care packages to Elijah. He could have kept the stream flowing, even though there was drought everywhere else. But if He had done that, both Elijah and the widow would have missed out on God’s better plan. By sending him to the widow, God revealed himself as the one true God to a hopeless and dying woman. He also provided a dear and lifelong friend for Elijah. None of that would have happened if he had stayed by the brook.

 For the last two years, Kelly and I have enjoyed wonderful blessings and peace by God’s brook, but now we’re experiencing a time of drought like never before. Our tendency is to ask, “What have we done wrong? Don’t you love us anymore?” But I cling to the knowledge that God sees what we cannot see from our perspective. He knows our need for growth and whose lives we need to touch.

 If your brook has dried up and you’re mourning the easy life you once enjoyed, God may be changing your situation for reasons you haven’t yet realized. Maybe there’s someone out there dying of starvation that needs to hear about God. Sharing Him in your own time of need is a miracle that can’t be done by the brook. Or, perhaps you need more than just physical comfort right now; it could be that God knows you need someone besides ravens to talk to - a friend beyond the brook. Whatever His reasons, let us trust our kind and loving Father to bring about His perfect good in all situations.

Lint Removed: Comfort
Cleaning Process: Sharing With Others

Saturday, March 12, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Four: Walking on Dry Ground

We all face situations where it seems like no matter what you choose, it’s not going to turn out well. We refer to them as:
·         impossible odds
·         between a rock and a hard place
·         up against the wall
I’ve been there, haven’t you? Parenting is riddled with decisions like that. If you train and discipline your children they don’t always appreciate it, and can make life miserable. But if you take the easy road and let them have what they want, they grow up spoiled and nasty, and they make your life miserable. See what I mean?

When God rescued the Israelites from their Egyptian slave masters, He took them into the desert toward the Promised Land. They immediately encountered an impossible situation. The Egyptians realized that without their Israelite slaves, they would have to do all their own work. So they jumped on their chariots to bring them back by force. Directly in front of the Israelites loomed the Red Sea. Let’s see…angry army on one side, uncross-able sea on the other. Hmm, not a good situation. But God opened an escape route:

“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left” (Exodus 14:21-22).

An estimated 3.5 million Israelites and all their herds calmly walked (well, maybe hurried) across a dry sea bed. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, the waters closed in on them. For the next forty years God did miracle after miracle to demonstrate His love and teach His people. But when they reached the Promised Land they panicked. “How will we ever get across the Jordan River? It’s too big!” Once again, God made a path.

Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away... while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground” (Joshua 3:15-17).

Notice that both times, someone had to make a move of faith before God opened the way. The first time, Moses held his staff over the water. That took guts. How stupid would you feel holding a stick over the water in front of everyone if nothing happened? The second time God told the priests to lead the way. They actually had to pick up the heavy ark and walk into the water before it stopped flowing.

It seems like an oxymoron to fear drowning in a desert, but in reality it happens to us all the time. When we choose to follow God we will encounter impossible barriers. We will face the temptation to go back to the slavery of our old way of life, or to stay just this side of the Promised Land. We’re in the desert; we’re parched and aching to rest, and yet we consider staying there because it’s familiar. It’s only when we overcome our fear of drowning in the unknown, and step out in obedience, that miracles happen. That’s when God makes a way through the sea.

Lint Removed: Fear of Drowning
Cleaning Process: Make the Move of Faith

Friday, March 11, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Three: A Dry Fleece

Have you ever been given a job for which you felt unqualified? There have been several times throughout my life when I’ve been surprised by an offer I couldn’t refuse. The first came right out of college, when an editor/friend asked me to write a book of plays. Several years later, when I was in my twenties, our pastor asked if I would consider starting a Women’s Ministries program at church. The summer after my oldest daughter finished first grade, she began begging me to homeschool. Years later, after volunteering some with missionaries in the Philippines, I received an invitation to teach an international writer’s conference there.

Just this last year, God has led my husband and I to open a halfway house for men in our city. Neither one of us have ever had any aspirations to do such a thing! But time after time He has confirmed His plan and opened doors.

To each of these requests, my initial response was, “Who me? You’ve got to be kidding! I don’t know how to do that. I’m not smart enough or experienced enough.” Every time, I’ve prayed, asked a lot of questions, and lay my ‘fleeces’ out before the Lord to see if it was really me He wanted. Each time, God confirmed the call and enabled me to carry out His plan. I really relate to Gideon’s story.

Secretly threshing wheat in a winepress so the Midianite raiders couldn’t steal the grain, he was just minding his own business when an angel showed up. “You’re God’s man of the hour,” he said. “He’s going to use you to defeat the Midians.” Gideon thought he must have heard wrong.

“Who me?” I’m a nobody - the runt of my family from the smallest clan in Israel. You’ve got to be kidding!” But God wasn’t. Gideon needed a little encouragement though before he was ready to charge into battle.

“‘If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised - look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.’ And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.’ That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew” (Judges 6:36-40).

Why would God choose someone with such obvious insecurities? Even though the odds were already against them, God told Gideon to downsize his army from 32,000 to 300 men and go to war with only jars, torches, and trumpets. There was no way 300 men could defeat thousands of well trained, well armed soldiers. His reasoning? So Israel couldn’t boast they had saved themselves through their own strength (Judges 7:2).

It’s the same today. The strongest, most capable person without God is nothing, but the smallest, clumsiest, least educated person with God, is sure to win. So even when we’re feeling dried up and unprepared to do the job, God has a plan. He can use us if we’re willing to let go of our insecurities and let Him do the work through us.

Lint Removed: Insecurity
Cleaning Process: Answer God’s Call to Action

Thursday, March 10, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day Two: In the Desert

In grade school I learned the difference between the word ‘desert’ and ‘dessert.’ “The way you can tell which one has two S’s,” my teacher said, “is that you always want more dessert, but you never want more time in a hot, dry desert.” Trials and suffering are desert times; we wish there was less pain, and more water, more palm trees and dates, and more time to chill at the oasis. Trouble comes to us all though, regardless of whether we’re believers or not. The difference is God’s people know where to go for relief.

King David knew how to do that. I’ve had my heartaches, but I can’t say anyone’s hurled a spear at me lately when I tried to soothe them with praise songs. No one’s brought their army into the wilderness to hunt me down and kill me. No one’s thrown rocks at me and cursed me to my face. My friends at church don’t openly ridicule me or celebrate when I get sick. And none of my children have taken possession of the house and kicked me out. But all of this, and more, happened to David. How did he survive? He talked to God about everything.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Life is hard sometimes. The desert can be a miserable and lonely place to be. You head for a green oasis for some cool, refreshing water and end up getting a mouth full of dryer lint instead. Because what you saw was a mirage, there was really nothing there to quench your thirst. But if you express your thirst to God, He will satisfy your longing and get you to the other side of whatever desert you’re in.

Throughout Psalm 63, David provides the map to the Oasis: earnestly seek God; keep going to church and see God for who He is; praise Him in the desert; sing songs to God at night; and hold on tight to the Source of living water.

Lint Removed: Desert Thirst
Cleaning Process: Seek, Worship, Praise, Sing, Cling

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

40 Days of Lint, Day One, Part One: In the Dryer (Spiritual Dryness)

Day One: Dry Bones Brought to Life
Death comes in many forms. Relationships die for lack of commitment, dreams fall by the wayside, opportunities pass, and ministries breathe their last without sufficient workers or enthusiasm. Some things die naturally when they have served their purpose. Forcing them to continue only prolongs the agony, like pumping oxygen through a corpse. But many deaths are needless, painful, agonizing, and full of foreboding. How can anybody come back to life after experiencing a loss like that? Only God knows.

I’ve experienced both kinds of death. I’ve been active in programs which served their purpose and died a natural death. I’ve had dreams that God allowed to die gradually so He could bring His perfect plan instead. However, I’ve also experienced other deaths that paralyzed my spirit. Only God can breathe new life into a soul devoid of life.

Ezekiel was a prophet to Israel whose people were spiritually dead; there seemed to be no hope for a comeback. But God showed him there would be a future resurrection. He took Ezekiel to look over a valley full of bones to demonstrate His power over death:

“…he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’
I said, ‘Sovereign LORD, you alone know.’
Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD’” (Ezekiel 37:1-6).

Are you feeling soul-dead because of sin, addiction, or neglect? You may believe there’s no way you’re ever going to live again. Only the Sovereign Lord knows what is possible, and He says, “Yes!” He has the power to put us back together, cover us with skin, and breathe life into our dead spirits. He tells us to speak the words of faith to what is now dead – “Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!” What a perfect way to begin the Easter season: with a personal resurrection, an infilling with the breath of God! You can come back to life and walk with Him, even in the valley of death. Speak the Word in faith and watch your soul rise up.

Lint Removed: Spiritual Death
Cleaning Process: Hear the Word of the Lord

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

40 Days of Lint: A Unique Twist on Preparing Your Heart for Easter

The season of Lent begins 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays). It’s a time to fast, repent, and focus our hearts on Jesus’ life and sacrifice in anticipation of The Big Day. The resurrection is all-important in the life of a Christian. Without it our faith would mean nothing. Even though our church doesn’t officially practice Lent, Kelly and I have decided to fast from dessert for the forty days. We want to respond in some way to Jesus’ lavish gift of love. Others fast from television, texting, coffee, and even the comfort of sleeping on their bed at night (opting for the floor) during Lent.
It begins this year on Wednesday, March 9th (Ash Wednesday) and ends on Saturday, April 23rd (the day before Easter). Sundays are considered mini-Easters when we are free to break from our commitment in celebration of the coming victory.

Just for fun, I want to offer daily readings on my blog during the 40 days with a little house cleaning in mind. It's not a typo; I really mean Lint. Annoying, ever-present lint may seem like a stretch from repentance and self-denial. And yet, being a dyed in the wool punster (blame it on my crazy family) I couldn’t resist the idea of exploring the parallels between physical and spiritual lint.

Lint is that collection of dust and material fibers that seem to get everywhere. Even though we diligently clean it from our dryers, pockets, and bellybuttons, it always seems to be back again the next time we turn around. Many people fast during Lent to clear their minds and hearts of selfishness and distraction. We ask God to sweep sin from our hearts to make way for worship and praise to our risen Savior Jesus Christ. So there are many similarities.

We get rid of lint for several reasons. It looks untidy; we de-lint to look presentable to others. Lint can also clog things up, so we regularly clean it from our dryers, vacuums, and equipment so they will run properly. Last of all, lint is a form of dirt, so we vacuum and scrub to keep sickness at bay and vermin from making themselves at home. We clear away spiritual lint for the same reasons: an attractive testimony, to remove anything that hinders our walk, and personal purity before God.

So I hope you’ll join me here for the next 40 days of Lent season for a new twist on an old tradition. I want to be clean and ready for the best Easter ever! Won’t you prepare your heart with me through a search and destroy mission for these five kinds of lint?

Lint In the Dryer (Spiritual Dryness)
• Bellybutton Lint (At the Center of Things)
• Pocket Lint (What is Hidden)
• Clothing Lint (Appearances) and where would Easter be without
Dust Bunnies (Deep Cleaning)

I’ll see you here tomorrow for day one of The 40 Days of Lint!

Beth Vice, (c) 2011